01/30/2013 10:58 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2013

Teach Your Kids That Economy and Ecology Are Related

In his second inaugural speech, President Obama included the following passage:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

President Obama wants us to "echo" something that is the premise of my book, The Eco-Effect: The Greening of MoneyTM. It is about saving money and resources and also creating an echo where parents talk to kids, to schools, to the government and to the world. I teach parents and kids to look at the world from both an ECOnomic and an ECOlogical point of view.

In my free iOS (iPad/iPhone) app, GreenStreets: Unleash the Loot! kids learn about ecology by saving endangered animals and learn about economics by building a budget and earning pretend money to buy food for the animals.

ECOnomy -- is it a need or a want? We need food but we want "fast food," which comes wrapped in layers of packaging and probably isn't all that healthy. Think about how much extra stuff you buy and make sure that what you're purchasing is really worth the hard-earned money.

ECOlogy - What effect will your purchases have on you and the environment? You can see that choosing "fast food" could have a more negative effect on both your health and the environment (disposable packaging).

Here are a few examples of how ECOnomy and ECOlogy are related:

  • They might be slightly more expensive than non-organic foods but, you have the option to buy and eat organic foods that are grown and processed without pesticides and are healthier for you and the environment.
  • If you buy a better-made product, it will probably last longer, and you won't have to replace it quite as quickly. Also, it won't wind up in a landfill overnight. That's as good for your wallet as it is for the environment.
  • More is not better. When you shop, take the time to look at the packaging. It's simple -- fewer layers of plastic and paper create less garbage. That means less has to be hauled away to landfills in trucks that use fossil fuels, such as diesel. It saves the environment, and it may save you money.
  • If you make your home more fuel efficient by insulating, plugging air leaks, keeping the furnace operating at optimal condition, you will save money on heating fuel and you will also reduce your carbon footprint.
In teaching the importance of making good financial choices, a perfect family budget is one that is balanced. In the ECOnomic world, that means that a family would spend and save the exact amount of money that they earn. If you spend more than you earn, your budget is out of balance, and you may go into debt to pay bills. That is an "unbalanced budget."

Just like what happens when we spend more than we make in a financial budget, we are now going into "debt" with our planet by producing too much pollution that can't be absorbed and recycled.

Begin by teaching your kids the Five "R's" and getting them involved:

1. Rejuvenate our ECOnomy

Companies use recycled materials to make new products and new jobs. Recycling in the
United States is a several hundred billion dollar a year industry and hires more than a
million workers.

2. Reduce Garbage

The average person in the United States throws away 4.6 pounds of garbage every day. Most
of it ends up in landfills -- creating land, air and water pollution. Think of ways you and your family can reduce the amount of garbage that you produce -- and take action.

3. Reuse, Recycle

Recycling uses less energy than making things out of raw materials. Reuse as much as you can.

4. React

Be aware of your environment. For example, if you notice lights on in an empty room, turn them off. Don't leave the faucet running while brushing your teeth. Turn off the air conditioning when you leave the house.

Do what you can and don't give up simply because the big picture seems overwhelming. Don't fight about plastic or paper, but do help to bring awareness of the issues to your kids. Encourage them to bring ideas to you. Remember, action begins with raising consciousness about the issues.

If you have any stories or suggestions about ECOnomy and ECOlogy, please ECHO to us in the space provided below.